Tuesday, December 11, 2007

the declining sight of Edgar Degas

Newsletter from artist Robert Genn:

Declining sight

December 11, 2007

There's a wealth of creative info to be had in the life and
work of Edgar Degas. He was a precise, thoughtful
artist with an evolved, academic drawing ability. Impressed by Japanese
prints, Degas contrived compositions not seen before, snapshot
cropping and happenstance placing that gave a sense of movement
and the passage of time. Degas shunned outdoor work but is
nevertheless lumped in with the Impressionists. His subject
matter was wide-ranging and eclectic--historical and classical
scenes, horses, dancers, cafй life, figures, sports, women at
work, portraiture. His media included oil, chalk, pastel,
pencil, engraving, mono-print, sculpture and photography.

Degas first noticed his eye problems when he was a national
guardsman in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71. With a blind
spot in the center of his right eye, he was a poor shot. By
1890, his left eye also began to deteriorate. Looking sideways
at his work, he used peripheral vision to compensate. Much has
been written and speculated about Degas' eyes. Stanford
ophthalmologist Dr. Michael Marmor has used computer
simulations to gauge the problems and mimic the blurred vision
that increasingly affected Degas' ability to see form and line.

Degas' later works are marked with unfinished passages, even in
tightly rendered paintings. He frequently blamed his eye
troubles for his inability to finish. Having what is now called
a "scattered mind," he claimed to "begin a hundred things and
not finish one."

Noting the changes that came about in his later works, some
observers feel that while Degas' draftsmanship lost realistic
description and refinement, it gained in grandeur and
expression. To give you an idea of the debate, we've included
early and late Degas figure studies in the current clickback.
See URL below.

Edgar Degas (1834-1917) often turned to sculpture. You can
understand the appeal by blindfolding yourself and putting your
hands on wet clay. Form can be felt as well as seen, and it's
even more voluptuous and expressive in the hands. Degas'
sculptures rival Rodin's. He wound up his working life about
1912. Degas spent his last years dejected and alone, imprisoned
in his advanced disability, having outlived many of his

Best regards,


PS: "Degas works were prepared, calculated, practiced and
developed in stages. Each part was adjusted to the whole, their
linear arrangement was the occasion for infinite reflection and
experiment." (Andrew Forge)

Esoterica: Plugging "Edgar Degas" into "Google images" brings
up 79,000 illustrations and their links. Commercial online
print sites, museum collections and illustrated scholarship sit
cheek by jowl and invite further clicks. High-res and low-,
Google presents a different type of learning. Follow-your-nose
browsing takes the scholar on a magic carpet that is
independent of approved curriculum.

Curiously, lack of information alongside some images often begs valuable
questions: "What's going on here?" "What could be?" and "What do I think
about it?"

Current clickback: If you would like to see selected,
illustrated responses to the last letter, "Book launch," as
well as interesting Degas material, please go to:

Robert Genn.com

"Love Letters to Art." Right now we have a Limited Time Offer
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To order, please go to the top of the current clickback: book launch
and your carefully packaged book will be on its way today.

If you would like to comment or add your own opinion, information or observations to this or other letters, please do so. Just write to: rgenn@saraphina.com

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(c) Copyright 2007 Robert Genn#

You may wish to read details on the natal chart of Degas here:

the eyesight of Edgar Degas posted at Jude's Threshold.

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